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5 wonderful, tasty seasonal dishes to make this May

May is such a wonderful month for lovely, seasonal foods. As well as strawberries and rhubarb, lovely veg includes asparagus, baby broad beans, baby carrots, broccoli, garlic (new season), globe artichokes, Jersey Royals, lettuce & other salad (especially if you have a polytunnel), new potatoes, radishes, sea kale, spinach, Spring greens & Spring cabbage, Spring onions, baby turnips & watercress.

You might like to forage for elderflowers, morel mushrooms, St. George’s mushrooms, samphire & wild garlic. n.b. do read foraging guidance, especially for fungi.

Sustainable fish include; coley, crab, flounder, herring, lobster (European), plaice, pollock, prawns (Northern) & rainbow trout.

For meat, enjoy new season English lamb or poussin/Spring chicken.

With all this wonderful fodder, why not spend some time increasing your repertoire & utilise some wonderful, seasonal ingredients for some lovely tasty dishes? At Mill Cross Retreats, you’ll know we enthuse about local & organic as well as seasonal- so we encourage you to get down to your local, independent suppliers if & when you can.

The whole experience is easier and kinder than supermarket shopping & you will be supporting local, small businesses to stay afloat. Plus your choice will be broader and fresher.

We’re very lucky here in Rattery to have so many great local shops like Ben's Farm Shop, Halls Butchers (Totnes), Olivers Butchers, Annies, Ashburton Deli and Fish Deli & others nearby like The Cheese Shed. Do check them out if you’re staying with us here at Mill Cross Retreats or live near us in South Devon.

1) Wild Garlic Pesto

Wild garlic lines all of the lanes, paths and woodlands that we regularly walk in. 150g (all you need) is very quick and easy to pick- just try to pick it away from where car exhausts have been & do give it a good wash! You can also use wild garlic in butter and cheese scones- these are really lovely.

You will need;

  • 150g wild garlic

  • 50g Parmesan (remember that this is generally not veggie or vegan so do find a suitable alternative if you need)

  • 50g toasted pine nuts

  • Half a lemon zested & a few drops of juice

  • 2 cloves garlic

  • 150ml of good quality olive oil (we use Olea Naturae from Ben's)

Roughly chop the wild garlic & pop it into a food processor with the toasted pinenuts, Parmesan, lemon zest & garlic. Blitz til roughly chopped

With the motor on, gradually add the olive oil, a good squeeze of lemon juice & a little seasalt if needed

Add to your woodfired pizza, homemade soup or pasta dishes. We like it with wholemeal pasta, roasted tomatoes & goats cheese

2) Crab and spinach tart

Yay! It’s the season for crab & luckily for us, the South Devon coast yields some pretty marvellous crab. Try The Seafood House in Teignmouth for 1st rate crab.

I love crab in any incarnation but if you’d like to make a little go a long way, a crab tart is a great choice. Tarts, frittata & quiches really come into their own in the Spring & Summer (I could go on… asparagus, pea & mint; roasted squash, goats cheese, spinach & pepper; feta, watercress & pea amongst my own favourites). We are very lucky here to have our own happy chooks who keep us well supplied with lovely eggs- do get the best free range eggs you can as the flavour will be loads better.

You will need;


  • 100g Doves plain white flour & 100g Doves Spelt flour (the Spelt gives a lovely nutty flavour)

  • 100g unsalted butter, cut into small cubes at room temp


  • ¼ tsp salt

  • 150g mixed crab meat

  • 100g spinach

  • 2/3 shallots or a leek

  • 200ml whole milk

  • 100ml double cream

  • 3 large free-range eggs & 2 egg yolks

  • Sea salt & ground black pepper (or a little pinch of chilli if you like it)

  • 75g grated parmesan or similar

  • A little more butter

You will need a 20cm metal flan dish.

Make the pastry by either rubbing the butter into the flours or blitzing in a food processor.

Add the salt. Then add enough cold water to make a firm dough. If you are making this by hand, use a dinner knife to mix then pull it together. Don’t overwork it.

Place into a bowl & cover, pop it into the fridge for at least an hour, ideally two.

When you are ready to bake your tart, bring the chilled pastry out of the fridge for about 20 mins to half an hour to make it workable. Roll it out on a floured surface to a diameter of about 20cm and about the thickness of a £1 coin.

Pop it over your rolling pin and place it carefully into your metal flan dish, gently easing it into place. Prick the base all over with a fork & carefully trim the top. Pop some greaseproof paper into it and fill with baking beans. Pop it back into the fridge for another hour.

Now add a tbsp of butter to a small frying pan over a low heat. Finely slice your shallots/leek and add them to the pan. Keep the heat low and gently fry until they are soft.

Whisk together your whole eggs, yolks, cream, milk. Strain through a sieve and season with seasalt and ground pepper (& a little chilli powder if you like it).

In a medium sized pan, wilt your spinach leaves and season. If the spinach is very wet, squeeze out excess water between two plates.

Take your chilled pastry case out of the fridge and blind bake it in the oven for 15 mins @ 180.

Here is some info you might find useful if you haven't done blind-baking before

Take it out, carefully remove the baking beans and paper and pop it back in for 10 mins.

Place the cooked shallots/leeks into the bottom of the pastry case. Carefully spread your wilted spinach around the base and then add the crab, distributing it evenly.

Slowly pour in your milk/cream/egg mix & sprinkle your grated Parmesan on top.

Pop it into 160 degree oven and cook for about 25 minutes until lightly brown on top and slightly wobbly.

Serve with Jersey Royals and a seasonal green salad. These are also lovely made up as small tarts...

3) Asparagus Hollandaise

May = asparagus. I LOVE asparagus & every May I kick myself for not planting it when we moved into Mill Cross 5 years ago, as it takes 3 years before it grows. Luckily for us, there is a plentiful local supply & as well as enjoying it as a side dish (with lots of butter, of course!) or in tarts & quiches, it is sublime with Hollandaise. As we are lucky enough to be able to get food locally at Ben's, here is Big Sister Riverford’s recipe;

You will need

  • 400g asparagus

  • 200g butter

  • Olive oil

  • 3 egg yolks

  • Juice of half a lemon

  • Pinch of cayenne

  • Seasalt and ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 200 degrees.

Pop the butter into a small pan and melt until it starts to bubble. Let it cool slightly.

Trim lower stalks from the asparagus (n.b. I just snap them- it always works in the right place)

Place them in a roasting tray & rub them generously with olive oil, salt and pepper.

Put into the hot oven & roast for 6-8 mins until tender

Place the egg yolks into a food processor with half the lemon & whizz together for 20 seconds. With the motor running slowly, carefully & slowly add the melted butter (*slightly cooled before you add it) . The sauce should start to thicken & look glossy. If it looks a bit thick, add a splash of water. Season with cayenne, salt and pepper & more lemon juice if you need it.

Put the asparagus onto a serving plate & drizzle the sauce over it along with some black pepper.

You could add poached egg if you like!

*recipe & image from Riverford website with thanks

4) Honey panna cotta with ginger-poached rhubarb

Again, I could enthuse about any version of panna cotta from plain & simple to delicately flavoured rose water panna cotta to finish off a Persian themed meal. As it's May, we are seeing rhubarb (which I do grow, unlike asparagus) so this recipe will beautifully round off any Spring/Summer supper. Panna cotta is a very light & lovely pudding, surprisingly easy to make & you can make it vegan with rice milk &/or veggie with veggie-gel (plenty of info online).

You will need

  • 6 fine gelatine leaves

  • 200ml full fat milk

  • 600ml double cream

  • 75g orange blossom honey

  • Tbsp vanilla paste

For the poached rhubarb

  • Juice of 2 blood or regular oranges

  • 75g golden caster sugar

  • 1 piece of stem ginger thinly sliced plus 1tbsp syrup from the jar

  • 600g forced champagne rhubarb trimmed and cut into 3cm chunks

Soak the gelatine in a small bowl in cold water for 5 minutes til soft

Put cream, milk, vanilla & honey into a pan over a low heat and gently bring to the boil. Remove from the heat

Squeeze the gelatine leaves, stir quickly into the mix and pour into a jug.

Rinse 6 x metal dariole moulds with cold water but don’t dry them. Pour the mix in, distributing evenly & then pop into the fridge for 3–4 hours to set.

To make the poached rhubarb- put the orange juice, sugar, ginger and syrup into a wide, shallow pan & simmer, stirring for 10 minutes until it’s syrupy.

Stir in the rhubarb then reduce the heat to low. Cover with a lid & poach for about 5 minutes until the rhubarb is tender. Remove from the heat and cool a little.

To serve

Dip the base of the moulds in hot water for 10 seconds & loosen around the inside edge with a small palette knife, then turn onto plates. Top each panna cotta with a little rhubarb to serve.

5) Fresh Strawberry Mousse

Is there ever anything more lovely than a fresh strawberry? It says Summer is on its way and is coming to find you- hurrah! For a super easy mousse using fresh strawberries;

You will need

  • 350g strawberries, washed and sliced

  • 200ml double cream

  • 100g golden caster sugar

  • A few extra strawberries and some mint for topping

In a food processor, blend the strawberries and sugar to a puree. Save half the puree.

Beat the double cream in a bowl with a whisk or electric hand mixer

Fold in the remaining half of the puree, very gently.

Divide the puree between 4 glasses and top with the mousse.

Pop into the fridge for an hour.

Decorate with a couple of strawberries and some mint or some mini meringues.

* Reproduced from An Italian in My Kitchen with thanks

Do check out our courses & pop up dining in The Bakehouse at Mill Cross Retreats where you'll be guaranteed a tasty, local and seasonal feast! We take private group bookings for both.

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